12 answers

Suggestions for Helping 5 Year Old with Hygiene Issues

I am looking for suggestions to help me teach my 5 year old daughter good hygiene skills. She seems to have trouble with wiping herself although she is at the age where she is perfectly capable of doing so. I try not to be harsh or overly critical with her since I am afraid she will become anxious, but I also feel it is not something I can overlook since it can lead to medical issues like urinary tract infections or worse. Whenever I try to talk to her about it she shuts down and cries. Any suggestions on how to approach this obviously touchy subject.


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Featured Answers

Hi J.,

To avoid a nasty UTI, which is extremely painful, she might still need assistance - If you are uncomfortable doing this, another option is to have wet wipes there for her to use, this is much easier than just dry toilet paper.

Good luck!

More Answers

I am going through this with my 5 year old as well. I have shown her how to wipe front to back and drop in the tissue, and then get a new one and do it once more. I tell her she is on her own, but then to call me and I will check her and wipe once more if needed (most of the time she has done a good job and I dont need to). Once she knew I would check her she was much better about it - turns out she was nervous she wasnt going to do a good job and have poop on her still. Anyway - good luck! J. I have also been talking about school (mentioning that she needs tolearn how in case she ever has to go at school).

Hi J., I think like most 5 year olds, your daughter is probably just preoccupied with other things and does a hasty job of wiping. To kids, it's not a priority. They make some little flushable kids wipes that most kids like using. You can keep them by the toilet .. just tell her to only use one or two though so she doesn't clog the toilet. Maybe get her some extra pretty panties and tell her how it's important for big girls to keep clean so their panties don't get dirty. Praise her when she does a good job, it works better than the negative. Good luck and God bless. L.

PS, I've read a few of your other responses. What do they mean about wiping back to front. They have it wrong ... it's from front to back. I hope they read this. You want little girls to wipe the BM AWAY from their vaginal area, not into it! It's harder to maneuver but worth the extra few seconds. Just FYI.

5 year olds have short arms and hands, do not have good hand coordination (just look at their handwriting), and they are new at this. No pressure. I have had to help both of my sons at age 5. I know a child older than 5 that has trouble also. Teaching to wipe front to back is best. Wet wipes are great. When I was a child our toilet was located next to the sink so I would moisten the toilet paper with water to clean up - no wipes back then. I keep a small trash can with a lid next to the toilet to dispose of the wipes now.
Perhaps she's afraid of getting her hands dirty. Just let her know how to properly wash her hands: Clean hand turns on the water faucet, wet hands, lather with soap and scrub all parts of hand including under fingernails for 20 seconds, rinse hands in rushing water until all soap is rinsed off, lotion hands to prevent drying. Germs live in the cracks of dry skin.
Ask her why she cries when you talk about it. Does she feel like you are being too critical or is she embarrassed or something else? Just let her know that it's your job to teach her how to take care of herself. It's her job to try her best. That's all that matters. It's hard to do when you're new at it. Practice will get her there. It just takes time. Nothing to get upset about. Let her know that if she needs help it's fine to ask you.
Good luck to you both,
: ) Maureen

Hi J.,
Same problem over here. My 5 year old either wasn't wiping correctly or doing the whole "back to front move." Anyway, she would wake up in the morning and if even a small amount of urine was on her underwear you could smell it. I took her to the pediatrician because I thought she had a UTI. Turns out she had a minor vaginitis from poor cleansing. I'm now cleaning her with iodine and warm water to get rid of the infection. Ok, long story long...I sat down with her and explained that I wasn't angry I just didn't want her to keep getting boo boos in her privates and I didn't want her to have to go to the doctor all the time. I then asked her to show me how she wipes after going potty. Now things are better...I taught her the right way to wipe and now when she goes to the bathroom I just say.....remember to wipe the right way. You might want to use my daughter's infection as a learning tool for your daughter. Best of luck! L..

Hi J.,

To avoid a nasty UTI, which is extremely painful, she might still need assistance - If you are uncomfortable doing this, another option is to have wet wipes there for her to use, this is much easier than just dry toilet paper.

Good luck!

I've got the same problem with my nearly 9 year old! I've tried many different approaches (subtle, direct, peer pressure from her sister, fully clothed demonstrations), but her embarrassment often shuts down the conversation. Sorry I can't give you advice, but know you're not alone!

Have you tried the toilet wipes? They are like a baby wipe but you can flush them ( beware that they are not safe for septic so they should be thrown away, if that is the case, not flushed.)

I know exactly what you're going through. I have taught my 6yr old that when she pees to start wiping from the back. She doesn't like to use toilet paper and so far has been doing very well with the wipes. I've told her if she needs to use more than three wipes after a BM to please ask for help. She gotten better at it and is proud of doing it without assistance. I hope this is helpful for you. Don't be discouraged, every child is unique and goes at their own pace. This may sound weird, but let her watch your technique and see she responds. Good luck!

My 6 year old STILL comes out into the living room, pants around ankles "mooom is it clean? Did I do a good job???" I usually wont even look, I tell her she needs to go back into to the bathroom and wipe until the paper is clean. Parents Choice (walmart) makes cheap flushable wipes which are the best thing ever, everyone in our house uses them. I tell her to wipe with paper to get the worst of it off, then a wipe, and more paper if needed. She tends to do it to quick sometimes and will pay the price with an itchy rash like thing on her bum/ vagina so, she has learned to get better about it. Good luck!

I would suggest using the sticker reward system. Put up a board with Brushed teeth, combed hair, washed hair, etc. Every time she completes one of these tasks you can add a gold star. When she gets X amount of gold stars, it's treat time! Maybe you could take her on a picnic or for an ice cream. Kids love earning things and most little girls love stickers. It's how I got my 4 year old to love doing personal hygiene.


Have your tried any of the flushable wet wipes for your daughter to use after she has a bowel movement?

I too, am parenting a five year old female. WE do not have this problem, but she used to ask me to check her to make sure she was clean. I did tell her she could get infections if she didn;t get herself clean.

A little about me. I am a 59 year old grandmother parenting our granddaughter.

I agree that wipes might help in the beginning. The extra moisture can be soothing and helps little kids who aren't as dexterous clean away the debris without wiping, and wiping, and wiping (!). Especially if the issue is that she wipes, but it just isn't all coming away, wipes are a decent thing to try. They're also good if she has tactile issues and doesn't like the feel of your toilet paper.

If the issue is technique, maybe make a few (non-graphic)hand-illustrated instruction cards to remind her what to do, go over them with her, and keep them in the bathroom where she can remind herself of how to do it. If the issue is stress over how to do it, this might help. If she likes numbers and counting, have her "count to 5 to make sure you're done", pull off "4 squares of toilet paper" and "wipe 3 times", or whatever.

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